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Alabama House Members Calling for Review of RSA Performance

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama House member Jim Patterson (R) from Meridianville is calling for an outside audit of Retirement Systems of Alabama investment performance. Rep. Patterson said, in an exclusive interview with the Alabama Political Reporter. “We are not getting good information.”

Rep. Patterson said that during the last ten years Retirement Systems of Alabama has been one of the worst performing public pension funds. Those numbers are based on valuations set by auditors hired by the RSA. In the last fifteen years, the Alabama state teachers’ pension fund has invested heavily in hard assets like commercial real estate, Alabama TV stations, Alabama newspapers, golf courses, and a box car factory. Valuing real property like real estate and businesses is an inexact science and Patterson questions the methodology used by RSA.

“Commercial property has been the worst performing investment of the last five years.” Rep. Patterson questioned the real values of RSA’s holdings and says he suspects that the numbers could be worse than what RSA is reporting to the public. Patterson said that he fears that this could “the biggest scandal in this state (Alabama).”

Alabama House of Representatives member Blaine Galliher (R) from Gadsden says, “There is this erroneous assumption that Dr. Bronner is doing an excellent job. Maybe early on he did, but he hasn’t in the last ten years.” Dr. David Bronner has been the CEO of Retirement Systems of Alabama, which manages the pension funds for Alabama’s teachers, state employees, and state judges since 1973.

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Galliher wrote on his Facebook account: it is “important that all read this article and realize, there is no such thing as “too big to fail.” I am not advocating taking over RSA–BUT–we put in close to $1 billion to shore up the RSA last session and it is anticipated that we will have to put in over $1 billion for 2013. That is money that could be used for raises, equipment, buildings, technology, and many other needs. This is real. I am really aggravated about those that advocate Bronner as the best thing since sliced bread, when for the last ten years RSA has been in the bottom 10 percent of retirement programs in the U.S. Again, I do not want to take over RSA but it is $1 billion of taxpayer money that should be going to the educational system and employees. I do think it is time that there be an accounting to the taxpayers since it is their money. If you are a public employee it is your money that is at stake. All I am asking for is answers to your return on investments and your retirement future. Again, not wanting the legislature to “take over” RSA as being purported but I do want some answers to tough questions like how much are the golf courses making? Why wasn’t there a prior lease on the rail car plant? Why did we continue to buy stock in USAir when we knew it was going bankrupt? I am not a financial genius but I too have an investment in this issue.”

By Alabama law, when RSA does not return at least 8 percent on its’ investments, the Alabama taxpayers have to pay in to the RSA to make up for the poor performance of RSA’s investments. This money is taken from the Alabama Education Trust Fund. Last year, the state legislature increased the amount of contribution that teachers paid into their retirements. Rep. Galliher said that this was due to the poor returns of RSA’s investments. Rep. Galliher said that when Dr. Bronner began diversifying into newspapers, television stations, and golf courses performance declined. Alabama House member Galliher says that the taxpayer money that the state legislature will have to use to shore up RSA could and should have been used in the classroom. “We are at the bottom versus other states. I would like to see some accounting. The teachers have not gotten raises in years. Every dollar is important.”

Alabama House member Jim Patterson says that RSA has a “fiduciary responsibility to the teachers” whose pension funds that RSA manages. “His fiduciary responsibility is not industrial recruitment.” Patterson said that Dr. Bronner has made several investment decisions to increase political power rather than to get the best return for Alabama’s teachers. Rep. Patterson cited as examples: RSA’s purchase of Community Newspaper Holdings, which owns over 100 small newspapers including some in Alabama and RSA’s ownership of Raycom Media which owns over 40 television station in the Southeast, including Fox 6 in Birmingham and Channel 12 in Montgomery. Patterson said, “The reason they own the TV stations is political power.”

Rep. Patterson questioned the close relationship between Dr. Bronner and RSA and the teacher’s union (AEA) run by Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert until his recent retirement,. Paul Hubbert in addition to his duties at AEA as Chairman of the Board of the Teacher Retirement System and the Public Education Employee’s Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) Board of Control, Patterson said that “AEA is the political arm of RSA. If you ask the average teacher, they will say that David Bronner is doing an excellent job because that is what they read in that little paper AEA puts out (the Alabama School Journal). The truth is he hasn’t. Dr. Bronner has been allowed to do whatever he has wanted to do” and for the last fifteen years he has not performed.

Both Representatives Galliher and Patterson were also critical of Dr. Bronner’s decision to invest $625 million in building a railroad car factory in Colbert County. Navistar has recently announced that they would lease the plant that RSA built.  Rep. Galliher estimated that the RSA has lost over $300 million on that investment.

David Bronner also used RSA funds for a leverage buyout of the airline USAir. Eventually, USAir ended up in bankruptcy and an estimated $300 million of pension fund was lost.

Rep. Patterson said that “AEA blames Republicans” for declining teacher take home pay. “They should be blaming Dr. Hubbert and Dr. Bronner for propping up their little empire.” Rep. Patterson was also critical of a contract that RSA has with a law firm in New York. According to Rep. Patterson, Dr.Bronner’s son is the highest paid lawyer at that firm on that contract. Rep Patterson said that Dr. Bronner and his staff, including Mark Reynolds, pay should be based on investment performance and not be paid direct salaries….salaries Rep. Patterson called “exorbitant.”

Rep. Patterson said that he did not favor giving the legislature control of RSA but said that the state “needs an independent investment guy” running RSA and the RSA “need to make money.” ”You can make money in any market. Hubbert and Bronner are running RSA. The RSA manager ‘needs to get the best he can get for the teachers.’”

Rep Patterson said that the state needs a report to teachers and taxpayers about the real health of RSA’s investments. “I would like to see an independent audit. All I want are the facts. Are we doing good, or are we not doing good?”

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Elections

Kay Ivey attends HudsonAlpha’s grand opening of Paul Propst Center

Brandon Moseley

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via Kay Ivey for Governor campaign

Wednesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was in Huntsville for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s ribbon cutting ceremony for their newest expansion.

The Paul Propst Center is a 105,000 square foot building and is named to honor the memory of the father of Huntsville businessman and philanthropist William “Bill” Self Propst. Propst’s father, Paul, was a North Alabama minister.

“Technology is rapidly advancing in today’s world, and this facility will give scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs an opportunity to not only keep up but lead the way in biotechnology.” Governor Ivey said, “Following the ribbon cutting, I had a chance to tour HudsonAlpha’s new center and see firsthand the great work going on here. I fully anticipate and look forward to what revolutionary breakthroughs are next.”

“The research, education and economic development efforts happening at HudsonAlpha are revolutionizing the way that Alabamians live and the way the world lives, which is why I am so proud to join them in expanding those efforts through the addition of the Paul Propst Center,” Gov. Ivey said. “Thanks to HudsonAlpha, Alabama will be the state to make good on the promise of having 21st-century healthcare and agriculture.”

In addition to Gov. Ivey the event was attended by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), and Huntsville area economic developer Nicole Jones.

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“HudsonAlpha is a leader in biotechnology and genomic research. Once again, they are on the cutting edge with the opening of the Paul Propst Center,” Rep. Brooks said. “The Paul Propst center is truly a state of the art building and will strengthen a workforce that continues the advancement of the biosciences economy in North Alabama. I was proud to participate in their ribbon cutting today.”

“This campus is a shining star for the state of Alabama, for this community, and the world stage,” Speaker McCutcheon told WHNT Channel 19.

“Bioscience, one of the State of Alabama’s targeted industries, brings in an estimated annual economic impact of $7.3 billion,” Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “The vision of HudsonAlpha Founders Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillan contributes significantly to that number, and more importantly, enhances the quality of life of mankind.”

“At HudsonAlpha, members of the public and private sector partner to make innovations in biotechnology happen.” Nicole Jones added, “HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, literally and metaphorically, is built upon principles of collaboration. It has been an incredible opportunity to witness the institute’s growth over the past decade. Huntsville, Alabama is changing the world with the brilliant minds at HudsonAlpha.”

The Paul Propst Center is made possible by the state of Alabama and community support, including the generosity of Mr. Propst.

“Throughout my career, I have been focused on improving people’s health. My family and I continue to work towards these goals,” said Propst. “I see those working at HudsonAlpha with the same commitment to making life better. We are honored to be able to support HudsonAlpha as they continue to grow and make advancements.”

“HudsonAlpha is really helping us develop an industry that will drive not only the future of Huntsville but the future of healthcare as we know it. Cures for diseases will come out of HudsonAlpha that will impact the lives of our children and children’s children for decades to come,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

“HudsonAlpha has accomplished so much in the only ten years, all of which would not have been possible without the support our community,” said HudsonAlpha co-founder Jim Hudson. “Cutting the ribbon today on the Paul Propst Center was a special moment not only for me, but all of us at HudsonAlpha and in Huntsville.”

The Propst Center has a similar look and feel to the flagship building at 601 Genome Way, the Propst Center will house components of HudsonAlpha’s education and research programs, and growing biotech companies. The details in design, glass walls, common sidewalks, a grand staircase, are intended to create a “team science” environment and contribute to the culture of collaboration.

“The vision of the institute’s founders is to see discoveries and advancements quickly occur with research and business working together,” said HudsonAlpha Vice President for Economic Development Carter Wells. “Today, we celebrate not just the continuation but a strengthening of the culture of collaboration and innovation created 10 years ago.”

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Elections

Jay Mitchell campaigns in St. Clair County

Brandon Moseley

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Republican nominee for the Alabama Supreme Court Jay Mitchell addressed the influential St. Clair County Republican Party at City Market Grill in Pell City Thursday.

Mitchell said that he wants to go to Montgomery and be part of, “Restoring confidence in what we do in Montgomery.”

Jay Mitchell said that he was born in Mobile and grew up in the Wiregrass. When he was ten, his family moved to Homewood. Mitchell went to Birmingham Southern where he played basketball and was part of a Division 3 basketball national championship team. Mitchell went to the University of Virginia School of Law, where he met his wife.

Mitchell and his wife, Elizabeth live in Homewood, with their four children. Jay is a partner with Maynard, Cooper & Gale in Birmingham. He has handled numerous cases at both the trial and appellate levels. He is recognized as one of the top attorneys in the United States

Mitchell said that if he is elected to the Alabama Supreme Court he is going to focus on what does the law say. “I believe that we have a responsibility as the Judiciary to stay on the right side of our boundary line and not become some sort of a super legislative group.”

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“I am not running for a paycheck, I am not running for a safe seat,” Mitchell said. I am going to Montgomery to work.

Mitchell said that he is glad that if he goes to Montgomery that St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor (R) will be working in the Judicial Building with him. Minor is the Republican nominee for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Minor has no Republican opponent.

Mitchell said that retired St. Clair County Judge Jim Hill does a great job representing St. Clair County in the Alabama legislature.

Mitchell said that “there is a great forgetting going on” right now. We are forgetting how the country was founded, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, and how men have sacrificed to protect our liberties. Mitchell promised that if he is elected to the Alabama Supreme Court that he will take time to talk to school groups. I am committed to do my part to help educate the next generation about this country.

Mitchell’s race is one of just two state appellate court races where the Democrats fielded a candidate. Mitchell faces Jasper attorney Donna Wesson Smalley (D) in the November general election.

Associate Justice Tom Parker (R) is running against Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance (D) for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman Paul Thibado said that we need to put a lot of effort into recruiting new people particularly young people to the county party. St. Clair County should be an industrial mecca.

St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Lance Bell said that the newly elected St. Clair County Republican Party representative on the State Republican Executive Committee Emory Cox has had to resign his post because he has taken a job in the White House.

The St. Clair County Party Executive Committee members there elected St. Clair County School Board Attorney John Rhea to fill the vacancy. There was no opposition.

Bell said that Richard Minor was also stepping down from the State Republican Executive Committee and that the county party executive committee will vote on his replacement next month. The October meeting is tentatively set to be held in Moody.

St. Clair County Circuit Clerk Annette Manning Hall reminded the Republicans present that absentee ballots become available at her office on Monday, September 24.

Bell said that Kay Ivey’s St. Clair County Chairman Bill Morris was going to need help manning stations at the polls on election day.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D).

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Shelby announces $4 Million in critical opioid treatment grants for Alabama community health centers

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) announced that 15 community health centers located in Alabama have received a total of $4,038,000 in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support increased treatment and prevention for opioid and substance abuse.

“It is of the utmost importance that we work to fund the fight against the national opioid crisis,” said Senator Shelby. “Nearly every county in Alabama is affected by this growing problem. These HHS grants will allow community health centers across the state to provide treatment to patients with opioid and substance abuse and support addiction prevention programs, helping our communities tackle this widespread epidemic.”

The grants were awarded to community health centers in: Bayou La Batre, Birmingham, Centreville, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Parrish, Selma, Scottsboro, Troy, and Tuscaloosa.

64,000 Americans were killed from drug overdoses in 2016, more than were killed in a decade of fighting in the Vietnam War. More than 300,000 Americans have been killed by opioids since 2000. In 2016 more than 20.1 million Americans were addicted to prescription painkillers and/or illicit opioids.

Responding to the unprecedented drug crisis has been a priority of the administration of President Donald J. Trump (R).

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“We are already distributing nearly $1 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment, and more than $50 million to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and facing addiction,” the President said. “We have also launched an $81 million partnership to research better pain management techniques for our incredible veterans.”

The President’s proposed Federal Budget requested $3 billion in new funding in 2018 and $10 billion in 2019 for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. The funding would also go toward addressing mental health concerns.

On September 19, HHS awarded nearly $352 million to 1,232 community health centers across the nation, including the 15 in Alabama, through the Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services (SUD-MH) awards. The SUD-MH awards support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies that best meet the substance use disorder and mental health needs of the populations they serve.

The following 15 community health centers in Alabama will receive the $4,038,000 in grant funding:

  • Bayou La Batre Area Health Development Board, Inc., Bayou La Batre – $285,000
  • Christ Health Center, Inc., Birmingham – $285,000
  • Alabama Regional Medical Services, Birmingham – $285,000
  • Aletheia House, Inc., Birmingham – $201,750
  • Cahaba Medical Care Foundation, Centreville – $296,000
  • Quality of Life Services, Inc., Gadsden – $293,000
  • Central North Alabama Health, Huntsville – $285,000
  • Health Services, Inc., Montgomery – $285,000
  • Franklin Primary Health Center, Inc., Mobile – $285,000
  • Mobile County Health Department, Mobile – $285,000
  • Capstone Rural Health Center, Parrish – $287,250
  • Rural Health Medical Program, Inc., Selma – $285,000
  • Northeast Alabama Health Services, Inc., Scottsboro – $110,000
  • S.E. Alabama Rural Health Associates, Troy – $285,000
  • Whatley Health Services, Inc., Tuscaloosa – $285,000

“Addressing the opioid crisis with all the resources possible and the best science we have is a top priority for President Trump and for everyone at HHS,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The more than $1 billion in additional funding that we provided this week will build on progress we have seen in tackling this epidemic through empowering communities and families on the frontlines.”

“This week, HHS updated its strategic framework for tackling the opioid crisis, which uses science as a foundation for our comprehensive strategy,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health and Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy. “With these new funds, states, tribes, and communities across America will be able to advance our strategy and continue making progress against this crisis.”

Earlier this week, Senator Shelby voted to pass “The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018,” which was a bipartisan effort of over 70 U.S. Senators and includes proposals from the Senate Committees on: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Finance; Judiciary; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation would improve detection of illegal drugs at the border, improves the sharing of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs data between states, and aims to reduce the use and supply of dangerous drugs.

Senator Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Will Christine Blasey Ford testify before Senate Judiciary Committee or not?

Brandon Moseley

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Christine Blasey Ford has alleged that she was groped by Brett Kavanaugh when they were both teenagers and that another student had to pull him off of her.

That student, Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge denies Ford’s account. Judge said Ford’s allegation never happened: “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.”

Kavanaugh has denied that the incident has ever taken place.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is now begging Ford to agree to come to Washington to testify.

The committee will hold a special session on Monday and has invited both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify on the allegations. Only Kavanaugh has accepted. As of press time, Ford has agreed to testify but not on Monday and even though she is the accuser she is demanding that Kavanaugh testify first. Traditionally the accuser testifies first and the accused is allowed to testify second. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has not yet agreed to Ford’s highly unusual demands.
Some Republicans have argued that if she does not come Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee should just go ahead and vote and send the nomination to the full Senate.

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“The Democrats and special interest groups have only one goal – delay and stop the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Of course, Christine Blasey Ford refuses to testify. She is being used as a political pawn to delay the hearing. Only after Senate Democrats were unable to delay or stop the confirmation process did they bring this 36-year-old allegation which they held for six weeks. The confirmation hearing needs to move forward, and this mockery of the system and disrespect to a good man must end.”

Some have compared Ford’s Washington Post story that he had sexually misused 15 year old Christine Blasey Ford to last year’s Washington Post story that then U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has sexually misused 15 year old Leigh Korfman.

“Brett Kavanaugh, like me, has withstood numerous investigations and vetting by the most rigorous legal and political authorities,” Judge Moore said in a statement. “The timing of these accusations in the midst of the U. S. Senate’s confirmation for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court, like those allegations against me only 32 days before the final election for the United States Senate last year, is indeed suspect and show the depths to which liberals will stoop to stop opposition to their agenda.”
Senate Democrats used similar character assassination tacticsto fight the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Christine Blasey Ford is expected to make a decision today on whether or not she will testify.

Brett Kavanaugh is President Donald J. Trump’s second nomination to the Supreme Court.

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Alabama House Members Calling for Review of RSA Performance

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 6 min
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